Winter Health: Tips for Combating SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

Seasonal Affective Disorder can push even habitually happy people into a moody funk, and can send a depressed person even deeper into the dark limits. The combination of cold temperatures and short days during winter makes this a common time for people to suffer from SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. Thankfully, we have some ideas for you to fight back. The following information may help minimize the downs and lengthen the ups:

Good light - Take a few minutes to consider the amount of light you are losing each day during the winter months, which you might normally be spending outside during the summer months. Our bodies are like batteries, charged by the sun. During the winter, the sun is low in the sky and the rays of light are spread much thinner than summer months. Get outside as much as possible during the day, and take advantage of what sunlight there may be. Try going for a walk at noon, when the sun is at its brightest. If sunlight is limited, consider light therapy. There are light bulbs available at your local hardware store that are significantly brighter than regular bulbs, and they provide light in different wavelengths. This artificial light can help stimulate your body’s circadian rhythms and suppress its natural release of melatonin. Research shows that light therapy is most effective in the morning.

Good signals - Give your body clear, obvious signals to help your brain efficiently make “feel-good” hormones and chemistry. Try not to confuse your well-lit, awake time with dark, sleeping time, so that your body can properly produce melatonin and serotonin. These chemicals in the brain help to improve quality of sleep at night, and mood the following day. Avoid electronics such as T.V. and cellphones in bed and during scheduled sleeping times. It is acceptable to read and watch T.V. in the evenings, but do it sitting up in a well-lit room. Set and keep a scheduled time to go to sleep at night. Lights out, and lay down!

Good food - Avoid eating as many of the white starchy carb foods (such as bread, sugar, rice, etc.) as possible, and try to substitute with fruits and vegetables. The more you can substitute bad foods for good, the more positive results you should feel toward mood and energy. Also, try to shrink the size of your meals and eat them more often throughout the day (This tip alone is powerful for improving mood and metabolism). Eating colorful, low-glycemic carbs and good sources of protein throughout the day can also help you feel energized and motivated to exercise.

Good exercise - Exercise helps your body release chemicals called endorphins, which interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain, and trigger a positive feeling, similar to that of morphine. Exercise will also help offset weight gain that is common with SAD. Get outside if weather permits, but if you can’t, choose a treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical machine closest to a window at the gym.

- This article is not meant to treat or diagnose disease. Always seek the advice of a healthcare professional with health concerns. -


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